Saturday, May 28, 2022

Departing EU envoy tells Botswana to capture lucrative EPA windfall

Botswana will in the long run reap the fruits of the recently concluded Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union (EU) and Southern African Development community members that will open markets for the diamond-reliant economy.

There are however still lingering questions on what is there for Botswana to benefit as it exports mainly beefÔÇöwhich of late has had its own challenges and diamonds that face tariffs. Government has failed to say what other agricultural products will be exported to the lucrative EU market.
The departing head of European Union Delegation to Botswana and SADC Ambassador Gerard McGovern however said under the EPA, there are quite a number of advantages for the country as it has safeguarded quota and duty free market that can help in luring investors.

“When Batswana sell their country, they can declare they have quota free markets,” McGovern said at his last media interaction this week. “Now is for Botswana to capture that market”.
The SADC-EPA group recently signed the controversial EPA deal that is seen by critics as new ‘Scramble for Africa’ by those opposed to the trade deal.

Third Africa Network (TWN) Africa, the Ghana based civil society group and African civil society organisations (CSOs) have argued in the past EPA will lead to job losses, threaten the peace of the continent, and strangle Africa’s right to evolve and pursue its own development agenda, and lead to the re-colonisation of Africa by Europe.

However, McGovern said the deal will also help speed up regional integration process and sees the move as a substitute to aid as it comes with development component. “At the end of the day, we want to see home grown businesses from Botswana,” argued the envoy.

He is of the belief trade is better than aid and ‘there is no country in the world that has progressed because of aid’. “Trade is very important and EPA will enhance the regional integration process of your region,” he added.

McGovern came to Botswana in February 2011 to replace Paul Malin, who has also advised Botswana to take advantage of the EPA. “The market is there. It is a matter of capacity. The biggest problem Botswana has is diversifying from beef and diamonds,” Malin told Sunday Standard ahead of his departure to Mozambique where he resumed a new assignment.

“The problem is getting the ability to trade. You can not only rely on the domestic economy and also have to be competitive.”

McGovern said it was during his tenure that he was able to put in P1.5 billion stock of development projects and revealed he was happy that the EU has been able to support the country in developing a small and medium sized enterprise programme which is now getting off the starting blocks.

“…and the good news is that our sister institution the European Investment Bank is at an advanced stage of appraising a substantial line of credit to the SME sector in this country,” he said.
He added that the quality of projects they are doing in Botswana needs to be commended. “We are starting to see results. EPA is part of the answer (on FDI from Europe).”

The other school of thought is that Europe wanted to mark its presence in the region especially at a time when the Asian countries are expanding into Sub Saharan Africa and critics sense sinister motives on P350 million sweetener that the EU said will go towards supporting development of trade.
He acknowledged the importance of the roles China and now India plays in the global economy and agreed they are competitors for the same projects, which he said is the beauty of globalised economy.

He said it is important that the countries of the region take the leadership especially there are wide range of suitors including European, Americans, Chinese and Indians. “It is important for these countries to pick and choose”.

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